As teachers reach out to every family in the Fraser-Cascade School District, plans are being made as to how to support students with technology, food and other needs.
How exactly teachers will be supporting students with their learning remains to be seen, said superintendent Karen Nelson. Teachers have until mid-April to finalize their plans and this week has been about connecting with students and parents.
For students who might not have access to a computer or other technology, or who may lack internet access, Nelson said paper-based packages are being given out. Some schools, depending on their supplies, are signing out laptops to students. This is what the Two Rivers Education Centre (TREC) in Hope is doing.
For Indigenous students, the Aboriginal Education Council said options exist to connect with their chief and council to see what kind of technologies might be available to students through band offices. Children and youth in care are being contacted by the Fraser Valley Aboriginal Children and Family Services Society to “ensure that they are provided with the proper technology,” Nelson said.
Schools are also looking at how to support students who may have accessed breakfast and lunch programs, or other school-based meal programs. Some have received funding, for example Boston Bar Elementary-Secondary School are getting $1,200 a month from Breakfast Club of Canada. Kent Elementary School is providing gift vouchers for families, which they can redeem at local grocery stores.
“(Schools are) determining, based on their own circumstances, whether they deliver it or the families pick it up, or whether or not families would prefer a gift card where they can go and purchase their own food,” Nelson said. This kind of work is being assisted by First Nations support workers and special education assistants.
As students have stayed home since March break, teachers and school administrators are expressing how much they miss them. Several schools have sent messages of love and support to their students. Kent Elementary staff put together a photo collage, each with a sign carrying one word, that spelled out a message saying students are greatly missed. “We want you to know that even though we are apart we are together at heart. Please stay safe,” they wrote.
Support for students experiencing family violence
As the COVID-19 response confines people to their homes, advocates fear a rise in incidences of family and sexual violence against women and children. Some B.C. municipalities have seen a rise in calls relating to family violence, for example in Vernon, while others such as the Campbell River RCMP say they see no evidence isolation measures are causing a rise in these crimes.
For anyone fearing for their safety amid physical distancing and self-isolation, the RCMP is urging them to call 9-1-1 or their local police detachment.
For students who might be experiencing difficulties at home, including family violence, Nelson said the Ministry of Children and Family Development is asking families to contact them if they need support. Social workers will also be assigned to each school, so staff can be in contact with them. School-based counsellors are also still working and are proactively reaching out to students, Nelson said.
“At this point, we don’t know how long this is going to go on,” Nelson said of the new reality of learning and teaching from home, adding if school closures were to stretch until September the district would have to continue this type of learning.
The district and schools are learning new things during this process, Nelson added, including online resources that schools may continue to use. This would depend on what students, parents and teachers have said are useful to their learning.